Optimising Showcast - An Exhaustive Guide for Australian Actors On How To Get The Most Out of Australia's Premier Casting Tool.
"The biography’s not something that’s supposed to be printed and looked at in pretty way, it’s meant to drive a search engine that allows you to come up as many times as possible in as many searches on any given day." - Danielle D'Costa of Showcast
Today I get to share with you an incredibly valuable conversation I had recently with the business development manager of one Australia's premier casting websites. There are so many great take aways from this conversation that you may want to take it in over a couple of sittings, but I thought it was necessary to share it all because we dive deep into some great lessons for experienced actors as well as those just starting out with the service.
Some of the stuff we cover in the this interview includes:
And much, much more. I had so much fun chatting about it. I hope you enjoy reading about it. Big thanks to Danelle D'Costa and the team and don't forget to leave your comments below!
M: Fantastic, well first off it’s really, really great to have a chance to have a talk to you, I’ve talked to a lot of people on social media and they’re quite interested to see what comes out and I am too.
D: Yeah well there’s so much choice out there for the actor now too, it’s good for the to always be informed, in any choice they’re making I guess.
M: Yeah and with that in mind I wanted to start with that idea of why Showcast and with you too, obviously you’re the person we’re talking to from show cast so it’d interesting to sort of here a little bit about you and what you within the company and how you came to be with them?
D: Okay I’ve been here for 15 years, I run business development and basically just started off as administration but have just stayed here and really enjoyed it. Now I’m basically a liaison between the casting director, the agent and the actor and then our internal team to try and translate what those clients are wanting back through to our it guys and I also run our admin team as well.
M: And roughly at Showcast how big is the team?
D: Roughly, ah just let me count… Ten people.
M: Without needing to go into a page long word for explanation, but kind of simply put: What is the mission statement of Showcast or the main goal of the company, what is the key problem that your fixing the service that you’re providing that sort of thing?
D: Okay. The key problem I guess would be for us to make casting more efficient for the casting director, so for them to get there job done easier with less stress, in a more timely manner. All the while servicing the actor and making sure the best opportunities are made available to them, from those casting professionals. So we do that not only based on the professionalism of the people using the system but also the integrity of the database that we’re establishing.
M: Great. In terms of as an actor, is there a stage at which its more beneficial and less beneficial for an actor to be using Showcast?
D: Yeah I definitely think you could say that. Showcast has been around since 1960 and we’ve always been an actor database and we definitely still pride ourselves on being that, so we actually don’t market to the mass market end of the industry. We don’t directly market to extras and kids and people like that. They are on our system, because as I’m sure you’d know there are a lot of agencies that cross over between actors, extras and kids etc. There’s also many child actors that legitimately have a place on the service. But we have a policy that we don’t directly market to extras agencies. So it is very much an actors database, that being said it doesn’t mean that you have to have a three page spiel of professional acting credits. There’s a lot of people on the database who have a huge amount of passion and are stating out and wanting to work in the industry and know that it’s a place they need to be to stay connected to agents and casting directors. So I think personally if you’re an actor you need to be there. If you want to be an actor you need to be there. And if you’re interested in extras work or just the occasional dabble in the industry then I’d take your agents advice on where you need to be.
M: Sure and if you are in the first group that you talked about, the actors who want to be there and want to use it, what is kind of the best way to put your best foot forward on Showcast. What needs to be done, to have an effective Showcast profile?
D: Sure so, contrary to what a lot of actors do and we try to educate actors about this, is that oftentimes more is more. And that doesn’t mean making things up just to put them on your profile, it means being as open with your profile as you can possibly be. So a lot of people go, oh I’m not going to list all of my sports and athletics skills, because I think its going to look messy or unprofessional, but the crux of what showcase is, is a searchable database and quite often for casting, they will be searching for people that can skateboard, or they can horse ride proficiently or they can do yoga, and so a lot of the time actors don’t include that information because they don’t think it’s relevant. But it means that they’re not coming up necessarily in the search results that they should be coming up in and it might be for a tv commercial and they’re looking for a group of women that can do yoga, but if they haven’t ticked that, they’re just not going to come up in the search.
Now they’re agent is also going to stay in touch with those casting professionals and go oh yeah so and so does that. But chances are the casting director’s also done a search on Showcast before they’ve even picked up the phone or typed an email. So I definitely think if you can fill in as much information as you possibly can, including height, including age spans, sport and athletics and any other professional skills that you have or training you’ve done, I think is hugely beneficial! The biography’s not something that’s supposed to be printed and looked at in pretty way, it’s meant to drive a search engine that allows you to come up as many times as possible in as many searches on any given day.
M: Yeah so the goal for the actor is really to make themselves as easy to find as possible and that’s great what you say as a key thing to understand is that your your biography is there to power a search engine.
D: Yeah it’s not something that we want you to print out and walk around town an hand out, it’s not meant to be that kind of biography your agent usually takes care of that bio and we do have an attachment facility where you can attach like a printed version of that bio, but in terms of what’s driving it, yeah it really needs to be something allows you to come up as much as possible in a really true and honest way. So it doesn’t mean ticking everything just so you come up. If you can’t work in Perth and you can’t get yourself to Perth then don’t say that you can, because chances are you might get called into a casting at 9am tomorrow morning and chances are you’re just going to annoy a casting director because you can’t be there.
M: Perfect and look there might not be an answer to this, but something that I’m curious about because it’s something that we do at the Entrepreneurial Actor is we hold Masterclasses in specialised skills: is there anything like martial arts, horse riding or skateboarding that come up time and time again as interesting and valuable differentiating factors?
D: Yeah look as you said it’s not something I could tell you off of the top of my head, so I couldn’t single out a single thing. But I definitely think if you have a proficiency in anything like that and it shapes your performance or your body type or what you look like, then I definitely think it’s something that should be put on there. And you see particularly TVCs and huge campaigns now, that feature a wide variety of those sort of things that people are doing and people are interested in like free running and all of that sort of stuff. But definitely if it’s something that enhances your performance then I would include it.
M: So two questions in terms of actors and the stage that they’re at and I’ll ask them both together because they might be able to be punched out pretty quickly. One is: Is it worthwhile for non Sydney and Melbourne based actors and the second is how much traction can actor get without an agent on Showcast and what difference does that make in the experience?
D: Definitely yes for non Sydney based actors. We get a lot of stuff happening in Queensland and even Western Australia particularly and you’ll notice a lot of the feature films being shot in Australia often happen up in Queensland or happen over in Western Australia through the Pilbara to get that Iconic Australian look. Then you’ve also got casting directors in Adelaide that are big users of the system like Angela Heesom who did Wolf Creek and Wolf Creek 2, so yes there’s lots happening in all states of Australia.
The second question in relation to free lance artists, look I think you’re an actor you need be on Showcast, whether your freelance or represented. A lot of the time we will often have a freelance actor or someone who becomes free lance, that will then say to us look I’m not going to renew this year because I’m free lance and I’m just going to look for an agent and wait until then. We’ll get them calling back within twelve weeks, because casting agents are looking for them and can’t find them or when they’re calling agents and trying to seek representation the first thing the agent will do is look at their profile on Showcast and if its not there it sort of makes them look like they’re not necessarily that serious about where they are and what they're doing. I also definitely know that a casting director will phone or email a freelance actor if they come up in a search and they want to see them. it does happen all the time.
The thing I guess about being freelance compared to represented is that your agents job to is to search for work for you. So it does make it that much harder to try and form those connections and relationships with casting directors and stay on their radar when you don’t have someone out there doing that for you as a full time job.
M: For an actor who’s a freelance for an extended period of time or what have you, I’ve had a few people asking and I don’t think this is the case but I’m going to ask anyway because I’m a bit in ignorance town here, but they’re asking whether theres a feature where actors can find out what auditions are available and apply via Showcast. Because it seems very much that casting directors come to you, you can’t go in search of them?
D: It very much is. It very much is like that. And it’s not something that we’re trying to put a little box around and say this is how it has to be, we encourage casting directors to include freelance artists in those briefs and things like that. Our system isn’t a broadcast service where a posting goes up and everyone can just respond to it. It’s actually a direct communication from the casting director and they choose who they send it to, now that doesn’t just mean do I send it to agents or free lancers they actually have an agents list that they also go through and handpick which agents they wan to receive things, based on what they want their best response to be, because they want to be necessarily inundated with a hundred thousand profiles that they can’t get through. So they do very much target on Showcast and it is very much a part of why casting directors use us, because they know that they can do that and they’re not be inundated with profiles that they wont be able to get through. They can do it on there, but the majority of the time they don’t send direct to freelance. It’s something that we’re always trying to change but because Showcast is predominantly paid, professional, work across feature film, television and TV commercials I think its just one of those trends that’s going to take a long time to turn around.
M: Yeah, so in terms of the actor, the end user, the best thing is just optimisation then?
D: Correct and also to let the casting director know as well that you are there and you are available to work. I think even being part of the system shows them that. So by being a freelance and going oh I won't put my Showcast back on until I’ve got an agent, it really just takes you completely out of the loop. So even when you’re just doing your own marketing and your own emails and things out to casting directors, having that Showcast link on there means they can click on it immediately and go okay yeah they’re still here.
M: Perfect, that’s great advice. Just a few more. I had a question come up through one of our readers, What are some important events, Or workshops with overseas acting coaches/casting professionals that you run that you’ve got coming up?
D: We don’t actually run any of the events that we advertise directly ourselves. So if you’re a member of Showcast you will be on an email list of things that are coming up. But it’s things that come across our desk. Like companies that contact us directly to make offers to our members and if we think its something that’s going to benefit our members then we will release it through the service and often in a way that makes it possible for our members to either go for free, or win spots there, or go at a discounted rate at those masterclasses. So we don’t actually run them ourselves.
In terms of things that are coming up at the moment there’s an Ivana Chubbuck actor/ director masterclass that’s currently available to either book into or you can win a free place to either the Sydney or Melbourne workshop and I believe that’s in January that she’s coming out here but I believe the applications are open now to win a place and all you have to be is be a Showcast member and the details for that are on our website.
M: Last two questions, somebody was interested in how Showcast is differentiating themselves, particularly now since Casting Networks came on the scene?
D: Sure basically Showcast has been trying to differentiate our selves the past fifteen years, independent of casting networks obviously because there’s obviously always been AT2 around, E-caster, Starnow and there’s lots of other startups always vying for actors to join as members. I suppose the biggest difference I would put for us is that, I mean essentially were all trying to do the same thing, we’re all trying to make casting easier, we’re all trying to service the actor, the biggest difference for us is the reputation and the longevity that Showcast has seen in the Australian entertainment industry. Everything that we’ve done and everything that we can continue to do, we always do still with the actor still in the back of our mind. So we try and keep our costs fixed which we’ve done for the last ten years while continuing to improve the service which is no small feat. You know continuing to employ more and more IT staff to put more and more features online, but not charge the actor any extra, so it’s something that we’ve alway done and will continue to do and as I said the relationships that we’ve formed over the course of the last 50 years across Australia and New Zealand that I guess give us that reputation and longstanding that we’ve always had and hopefully continue to have.
M: Great and now the last one this is actually from Greg Apps, and this is very much along his theme of thinking and what he teaches but he’s basically asked In a market place that is being over taken over by digital connectivity, as in the distance between the CD and the actor is the shortest distance it has ever been, where do they see the future? I think specifically in relation to casting and casting websites like Showcast how are you going to stay relevant?
D: Yeah look I think he’s exactly right in what he says in that connectivity is getting shorter and shorter and the time frame that you have to connect is also getting shorter and shorter. So as I was saying they want to be quick and want to be efficient, so it definitely is correct in what he’s saying. I think the future is going to be dictated by the speed of the internet and I mean we’ve done a lot of work on audition software in the last couple of years and we’ve got casting directors using that. Its still looking like self testing and live streaming of auditions is where the industries going to be going in the immediate future. So rather than a casting director necessarily having to have a studio, they’ll be able to self testing and also live stream there own sessions to clients anywhere in the world. Whether that’s a good thing or not remains to be seen. But I definitely think its going to be something that rather than necessarily appearing in person you might honestly be appearing on screen much more often.
M: Okay great. Sorry I’ve just had one last thought. In terms of a great Showcast profile, something that gets you noticed on the regular. Is there anything that you haven't mentioned thus far, that works as a positive differentiating factor, in terms of media, in terms of choice of photos things like that?
D: Yeah I think today regardless of the technology I think a good clear photo is always hugely important. Media is always an interesting one because I think the media is important if it’s good. And I think if you’ve got something to show. So I think a lot of people panic about there media and whether they should put it on or shouldn’t put it on. I think if you’ve got something together, I think its worth putting it up there. The other thing is I think today people don’t need to spend a ton of money cutting their showreels together like they used to. We also offer credit clips on the site, which allows an actor to put on 60-90 second of a production that they’ve been in and link it directly to credit that’s on their biography. So a casting director can jump straight to that point and start watching, rather than having to watch a 3-5 minute showreel. Its something that the Americans are always asking for and really interested in. It also means that the actor doesn’t need to constantly cut in new work to their showreel as frequently as they used to. They can have their showreel up their and link to new credits without having to cut that new work into their showreel immediately.
M: So those credit clips is it best that they are like 30 seconds long?
D: No they can be as long as they want, we don't put a time limit on them. We do recommend 30-90 seconds, because it is meant to be a quick clip. We restrict our media by file size rather than file length so as long as it’s under 200 megabytes which is a large file, you can make it as long as you want. The 30-90 seconds is more just a recommendation and more of what we see quite frequently thats the sort of time limit that people are watching before they then close down and then move on to the next piece of media.
M: Yeah great. Well thank you for that and for this whole conversation it’s been very educational, we’ve worked through everything I wanted to get through, it’s be great chatting to you and for you to give us the opportunity too, so thank you for that and look forward to seeing more from Showcast in the future.
Film and Theatre Actor Based in Sydney. Creator of Script Gym. Lover of Stories.